Moran's Memoir

Sometime in the 1980s, Dr. Phillip Marcus, a professor of 19th- and 20th-century English, Irish and American literature at Cornell, suggested to then-head men’s lacrosse coach Richie Moran that he should write a book. The subject of the book, insisted Marcus, should not focus on coaching philosophy, but instead should illustrate Moran’s relationships and experiences as a self-proclaimed “missionary” for the sport of lacrosse. Marcus was not the first, nor would he be the last, to make the suggestion to the legendary coach, but he was the only one to ever produce an outline.

More than 30 years later, after spending the day watching his eight grandchildren, Moran pulled the outline out of his archives and began scribbling notes in the margins.

“I never met my grandparents,” explains Moran. “I spoke to them once on Christmas eve. My brother was stationed in London during World War II and he went over to Ireland for two days and there was a transatlantic phone hookup and I had a chance to speak to them. So I had that day at the lake with my grandchildren and after the joy of being with them, I thought that I really should write something about [my wife] Pat and myself, her family, and my family, so that they could have it.”

Over the next two days, Moran wrote roughly 10-12 pages, but just as he had several times before, he put the project aside. But this time was different. Nearly a month later, he decided to seek help from his close friend, and Ithaca Times sports columnist, Steve Lawrence.

The pair spent the next six months meeting at the Ithaca Yacht Club for several hours a day, three days a week. The format of the book, a series of Q&As between the two, was born out of Lawrence’s strength as a reporter and Moran’s gift for storytelling.

“I thought it would be unique if Steve would ask me questions that would lead to a story,” says Moran. “We put a lot of emphasis on the things I thought were important to talk about. Especially keeping my grandchildren in mind. We thought it would be 12 chapters and it went 20. We thought it would be about 150 pages and it ended up being 350 pages. But it was a joy. We laughed a lot. There were some tears every once and a while. I’m delighted with how it came out.”

Moran's long-awaited autobiography – It’s Great To Be Here – takes readers on a 350-page journey from the legendary coach's birth during the Great Depression, to his family's great sacrifice during World War II, to his years as an elite player and a revered coach, to his lifetime of connecting with people.

One of the most successful college lacrosse coaches of all time, during his tenure with the Big Red, Moran was named the USILA Coach of the Year three times (1971, 1977, 1987) the USILA Man of the Year (1975), and served as the head coach of Team USA in the 1978 World Games. He led the Big Red for 29 seasons and won three national championships (1971, 1976, 1977) in the process. His teams won 15 Ivy League championships, including seven straight from 1974 to 1980, and turned in three national runner-up performances, losing in the title game in 1978, 1987 and 1988. Moran also set an NCAA record as he guided his teams to 42 consecutive victories from 1976-78 and an Ivy League record 39 straight conference wins from 1973-1979.

Moran after the 1971 championship (left) and holding the trophy following the 1977 championship.

Despite all his success and the many lives that he has touched, one of the most affecting parts of the book chronicles Moran’s struggle with depression.

“It was the fall of 1984 and at the time, I just thought it was a ‘coach’s disease,’” says Moran. “As a coach, you have a lack of sleep, you’re on the road away from your family on recruiting trips, and you’re always worried about your players because you’re responsible for them. And everything just seemed in a quagmire. I didn’t like anything I was doing.”

Moran credits Dr. Russ Zelko, a former Big Red lacrosse player who served as the orthopedic surgeon in charge of sports medicine at Cornell, for recognizing the symptoms of depression and encouraging him to seek treatment. He speaks poignantly in the book about his recovery and encourages others to recognize the early signs of depression and to seek help, even going so far as to offer his email address to the readers.

Serious subjects aside, Moran also shares countless happy memories – from seeing his wife Pat for the first time and turning to a friend proclaiming, “I’m going to marry that girl,” to building one of the greatest dynasties in collegiate lacrosse, to making connections with people from all walks of life.

With the release of the book, Moran continues to make those connections as he participates in book signings around the country.

“The book signings have been tremendous,” says Moran. “It’s been great greeting people I haven’t seen for years, and meeting new people as well.”

More like celebrations than autograph sessions, a recently held book signing at Cornell’s Moakley House featured a cake to honor Moran’s 80th birthday and more than 300 people attended.

Moran will have a book signing at The Cornell Store on Saturday, June 10 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. as a part of Cornell’s Reunion Weekend.

Moran with his wife, Pat, at a recent book signing at Cornell's Moakley House.

Considering Moran’s magnitude in the sport of lacrosse and the Ithaca community, it is not surprising to see the outpouring of love and support for his book. One of its final chapters features moving passages from dozens of former players, colleagues, and friends who go into great detail explaining what the legendary coach has meant to them. But perhaps the best explanation of Moran’s effect on people comes from the book’s Foreword, written by ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap ’91 …

Anyone who has spent time with Richie has felt that unique magnetism, that energy, that enthusiasm, how Richie wraps you in his embrace and makes you feel better about everything, especially yourself. That’s what I remember about meeting Richie for the first time – and it’s still the way I feel whenever I think about him.

The book is available online at Moran will have a book signing at The Cornell Store on Saturday, June 10 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. as a part of Cornell’s Reunion Weekend.


Photos courtesy: Cornell Athletics, Julie Greco, Steve Lawrence

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